Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Chestnut Jam

I love chestnuts. When I was little, my mom and I would go Christmas shopping really early, in November, and get ourselves a handful of roasted chestnuts wrapped in newspaper from a stall in the street. Chestnut jam is a little uncommon, but incredibly delicious and very autumnal. It’s a great gift - my American friend throws a Thanksgiving party every year, and every year I bring him a couple of jars of this delight, with a packet of home made honeycomb and a jar of chilli jelly.
800 g raw chestnuts
350g dark muscovado sugar (if you can’t find this, try regular dark sugar with a spoonful of golden syrup)
180ml water
1 tablespoon oil
juice of 1 lemon

The first part of this recipe is quite a bit of a pain, but trust me, it is worth it. Put on some music that makes you happy, wear a pair of latex gloves and it will be done in no time.
Slid the chestnut shells and boil them in a large saucepan for 10 minutes. Wearing your CSI gloves, remove the skins (which by this point should be softened and easy to work with): leaving the chestnuts in a bowl of cool water will help with the scorching heat.
Put the chestnuts back in the pan of boiling water and let it boil away for a good 50 minutes.
Cool the chestnuts down in a bowl of cold water again and try to remove as much of the dark brown crunchy film as possible. It is not the end of the world if a couple of pieces stay in it, so there is no need to have a panic attack over this.

Weight the chestnuts: you should now have approximately 500 grams. The does of sugar and water are given for 500 grams, so if you have a lot more or less you can adjust them accordingly.

Take about ¼ of the chestnuts and chop them roughly with a knife. You can change the amount of chopped chestnuts according to how chunky you want your preserve: if you want it particularly smooth you can skip this step. Put the rest of the chestnuts in the food processor with the lemon juice and the oil and blitz them until you obtain a perfectly smooth puree.

Dissolve the sugar in water, add all the chestnuts and simmer for about 30 minutes (reduce down to 20 if you are not using chunks).
Pour into sterilised jars et voila.

As well as great presents, these jars are at the basis of many autumnal treats. Try mixing a cup and a half of the jam with half a cup of good brandy to obtain a sauce to be flambéed and poured over vanilla ice cream and garnished with a caramelised violet. If you like to be healthy, try mixing a tablespoon of this in a bowl of natural yoghurt for an added kick to your morning routine.

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